In addition to optimising the energy efficiency of individual buildings, the holistic consideration of urban settlement areas provides considerable potential for increasing the energy efficiency. Here cities can define important framework conditions for implementing energy efficiency measures. They determine the supply structures, land-use plans and energy-related standards in public buildings, and the use of new technologies and modern planning tools can considerably expand their scope for action. Urban districts provide the reference level at which all urban functions such as housing, services, commerce, infrastructure and transport are grounded. Here, technological, socio-spatial and economic processes as well as energy and material flows are visible and controllable.

The subsidised projects are aimed at typical existing districts, redevelopment and commercial areas or campus sites. They are intended to implement model and innovative supply strategies using renewable energies and increased energy efficiency.

Based on urban development and district energy concepts, energy-efficient building refurbishment, for example, can be networked with decentralised municipal supply technologies as well as the development of new planning methods and instruments.

The focus here is on important urban development tasks, ranging from the refurbishment of the building fabric in historic districts and the conversion of former industrial and commercial sites to innovative supply solutions including modern storage technologies.

It is intended that Germany’s building stock shall be nearly climate-neutral by 2050. The rate of refurbishment therefore needs to be significantly increased, since the average annual refurbishment rate for the entire building stock is currently still under one per cent. The elimination of refurbishment obstacles requires not just strong financial incentives and market-ready technologies. New planning and implementation tools enable a wider range of refurbishment variants not just for individual buildings but also for entire urban districts – through coordinated technology combinations and the bundling of measures as well as their integration into the refurbishment processes. Such systemic aspects are becoming increasingly important.

Additional advisory and activation measures are necessary so that not just the municipalities and the housing sector are mobilised but also private owner-occupiers and landlords as an important target group.

The construction of new districts, settlements and housing estates provides a role model. In terms of conserving resources and energy efficiency, it offers the greatest range of possibilities but not the greatest savings potential. On the other hand, these goals can be realised in new-build schemes with the least additional costs. Although it is not possible to legally stipulate standards and technologies in planning law, such as passive house construction or the use of solar thermal energy or photovoltaics, a municipality can nevertheless influence energy-saving land use planning.

Along with the construction of new housing estates at the passive house level, energy-plus housing estates currently represent “the highest state of development” with regard to implementing energy-efficient construction methods. By combining energy-optimised building envelopes and correspondingly harmonised innovative system technology, they support the transition to a sustainable energy supply with their positive energy balance.

National and global climate protection, the need for which is undisputed, is based on the energy consumption and resulting pollutant emissions from our cities and conurbations.

The necessary energy savings and reduction of pollution in cities require a significant increase in energy efficiency. Cities can lay down important framework conditions for this. Examples include land-use plans and the specification of supply structures. In addition, they often have shareholdings in municipal and regional companies such as utilities and housing associations. They indirectly influence the implementation of energy efficiency measures such as, for example, the expansion of district heating or the use of renewable energy sources. And cities can act, of course, as role models and examples when building or refurbishing their own properties.